Tiny open-source gadget simulates replacement Amex cards, disables chip-&-PIN


Hardware hacker/security researcher Samy Kamkar is legendary for his legion of playful, ha-ha-only-serious gadgets that show how terrible information security is, and now he's turned his attention to the American Express company, which turns out to be a goddamned train-wreck. Read the rest

Detroit News documents the decimation of one city block


Over the holiday weekend, The Detroit News published a remarkable analysis of what happened in Detroit's foreclosure meltdown. One block on Greensboro Street saw 33 of 38 homes go into mortgage or tax foreclosure in the last ten years. Read the rest

The most beautiful money in U.S. history

Why isn't our currency this gorgeous now?

Interview with Matt Taibbi about "The Divide"

Matt Taibbi is touring the States with his new book, The Divide, which is on my must-read list right after I finish Capital in the 21st Century. Rick Kleffel caught up with him for his San Francisco NPR show and posted the interview, along with his notes (which includes links to his previous interviews with Taibbi).

Taibbi was, until recently, the best reason to read Rolling Stone: a finance writer for the 99%, whose incandescent and meticulous columns were terrifying and enraging by turns.

The Divide

05-12-14: A 2014 Interview with Matt Taibbi

(Thanks, Rick!) Read the rest

Gamestop as a fee-free, convenient banking institution

JWZ's law states that "Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail." A corollary is that every complex system expands until it becomes a bank. Yesterday, I wrote about how a chatbot for organizing coffee orders became a full-fledged bank.

Now, here's a 4chan post explaining a dumb/clever way of using Gamestop stores as fee-free banking institutions by pre-ordering (and pre-paying) for games, then cancelling your orders and getting a refund (to make a withdrawal), and ordering new games (to make a deposit). It's fee-free, and as a pre-orderer, you get all the bonus stuff (your bank pays you!).

This is probably more of a reflection of the total dysfunction of banking, where low interest rates and hidden inflation, as well as high fees, conspire to bleed out savers to pay for reckless speculation, but it's still a pretty clever way of getting fee-free banking from an institution with more branches, and better hours, than many banks. Read the rest

After the Meltdown: tracking the fortunes reaped by the bankers who tanked the economy

The Center for Public Integrity's After the Meltdown series documents the fate of the regulators, executives, and firms that were most directly responsible for the subprime meltdown, and demonstrates that the top bankers for firms like Lehman got unbelievably rich due to their failures, and are still in business with lucrative consulting firms (for example, Lehman CEO Richard Fuld walked away with several hundred million in cash and now has homes in three states and a personal consulting outfit). Consumerist's Chris Morran has done a great job of summarizing the findings: Read the rest

How refusing a $0.50 parking validation cost a bank a $1M depositor

In 1989, a bank-teller at the Old National Bank in Spokane, WA refused to validate the $0.50 parking stub of a shabbily dressed man who'd come in to cash a check. That shabbily dressed man was John Barrier, a 30-year customer of the bank with more than $1 million on deposit; which he promptly withdrew and took to Seafirst Bank, down the street. (via Reddit) Read the rest

Banker falls asleep and triggers $293 million transfer

A German bank employee dozed off at his keyboard and accidentally triggered a 222 million euro ($293 million) funds transfer. Of course, the order didn't go through, but the man's colleague was fired for not catching the mistake immediately when verifying the transfer. According to the AFP, the colleague sued and the court ruled that he should get his job back. No word on whether the sleepy employee is still on duty. Read the rest

TOM THE DANCING BUG: "Lucky Ducky," Featuring Hollingsworth Hound, Who Must Decide Where to Send His Money on Vacation

RECOMMEND: Visit the TOM THE DANCING BUG WEBSITE, follow RUBEN BOLLING on TWITTER, and listen to him as he joins other Boing Boingers in select episodes of GWEEK PODCAST. Read the rest

Bankster might lose his knighthood

Fred "the Shred" Goodwin, an infamous figure in Britain's aristocracy and a symbol of finance industry greed and incompetence, stands to lose his knighthood. Goodwin was knighted for "services to banking," and a few years later presided over the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which the British public had to bail out. Goodwin walked away with a titanic, multimillion-pound pension. The Prime Minister David Cameron has asked the relevant committees to have a go at taking away Goodwin's knighthood. Read the rest

UK warns of riots if Euro fails

Ottawa Citizen: "British embassies in the eurozone have been told to draw up plans to help British expatriates through the collapse of the single currency, amid renewed fears for Italy and Spain." Read the rest

Memo to American Bankers Association from lobbyists spells out $850,000 anti-OWS plan

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MSNBC's "Up with Chris Hayes" broke the story today of a memo by Washington D.C. lobbyists to the American Bankers Association on how to go about discrediting the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is evidently perceived as a powerful threat to the interests of the financial industry.

The proposal was written on the letterhead of the lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford and addressed to one of CLGC’s clients, the American Bankers Association. CLGC’s memo proposes that the ABA pay CLGC $850,000 to conduct “opposition research” on Occupy Wall Street in order to construct “negative narratives” about the protests and allied politicians. The memo also asserts that Democratic victories in 2012 would be detrimental for Wall Street and targets specific races in which it says Wall Street would benefit by electing Republicans instead.

According to the memo, if Democrats embrace OWS, “This would mean more than just short-term political discomfort for Wall Street. … It has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bullseye.”

The memo also suggests that Democratic victories in 2012 should not be the ABA’s biggest concern. “… (T)he bigger concern,” the memo says, “should be that Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies.”

Here's more, and here is the PDF of the actual memo.

Read the rest

On working with predators in finance

I work with clients in the banking and investment industry and see both the good and the bad. It isn't a "necessary evil"; it just is. People have dreams of having big money, enough to retire when the time comes, or maybe younger if the right set of circumstances smile upon them. Coming from a museum background into this arena was truly enlightening.

I deal with client issues. When something goes amiss, it is my job to fix it, or at least point them in the right direction. It is equal parts frustration and reward. Nothing makes me feel as good as turning a client around and helping to save a relationship. Read the rest

Top US foreclosure law firm threw Halloween party where staff dressed as foreclosed-upon Americans

From a NYT opinion piece by Joe Nocera, "What the Costumes Reveal"—

On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum threw a Halloween party. The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

The party is the firm’s big annual bash. Employees wear Halloween costumes to the office, where they party until around noon, and then return to work, still in costume. I can’t tell you how people dressed for this year’s party, but I can tell you about last year’s.

That’s because a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.

I'm not one to incite illegal activity, but christ, guys: if there were ever a house that deserved T-P-ing on Halloween? This firm's headquarters is it. May not be justice, but it's a start.

Read the rest, and see all the photos, here. (via Chris Hayes) Read the rest

Occupy College

"How can the government justify charging students nearly 7 percent while it charges the banks nothing and can itself borrow for less than nothing?" —Tamara Draut, writing at The Nation. (via Ned Sublette) Read the rest